For those of you on Planet Greenfeedz trembling in terror as the UFC’s legal Death Star powers up it’s supercannon, not all hope is lost. Not only was my claim that it would be difficult to link accounts and users to people and PPVs referenced in a legal blog (that’ll be $5000, you theives), but there is now black and white proof that the UFC isn’t always going to win these copyright legal battles.
Two years ago the UFC went after Justin.tv because a bunch of it’s users were using it to stream ppv events out to the masses. You’d think this would be a clear cut case where a company has a legit beef that the law should be able to deal with. Haha, not so. Because of the way the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was written, the site isn’t responsible for what it’s users are up to:
Last year, we wrote about how Zuffa, the parent company of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was suing Justin.tv because some of its users streamed UFC matches. As we noted at the time, we couldn’t see how Zuffa would get past the DMCA’s safe harbors. Apparently, Zuffa tried to get around that by being way too creative for its own good and the court has now shut down those efforts.
Basically, Zuffa focused on two areas not covered (or not clearly covered) by safe harbors. The first is trademark, which is neither covered by the DMCA’s safe harbors nor Section 230’s safe harbors — though, many courts have accepted similar rules that limit liability to third party service providers anyway. In this case, the court is extremely skeptical of the trademark claims, in part because it seemed clear that Zuffa was merely trying to use trademark law as if it were a “mutant copyright law,” which courts have rejected in the past.
The other attempt to get around safe harbors was to use the Communications Act, which has rules against “intercepting cable.” Justin.tv actually suggested that Section 230’s safe harbors should protect it from that claim — which makes sense — but the court doesn’t want to touch that argument. Instead, it just says that the basic idea that Justin.tv is illegally intercepting cable doesn’t make any sense — and notes, again, that it appears to be Zuffa seeking to do an end-run around copyright law:
“In essence, Zuffa alleges that Justin.tv’s users copied Zuffa’s UFC event and then rebroadcast the UFC event over the internet. This is not the type of conduct properly addressed by the Communications Act, but by copyright law (and, potentially, trademark law) because Justin.tv had no relationship with the original cable or satellite signal: by the allegations, Justin.tv did not receive or intercept any actual cable or satellite signal or broadcast.”
See, this is why we needed SOPA, people! Or perhaps something stronger that gives Dana White free access to IP data so he can show up at your house and throttle you with his bare hands for streaming his property.
*UPDATE* So maybe ‘defeats’ was a slightly strong word to use. ‘Partial victory’ would be more accurate.